Monday, April 22, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Bethlehem Steel - 06.05

- Opponent: Bethlehem Steel FC
- Location: Bethlehem
- Attendance: 1,537
- Final Score: 3-0 W
- Starting XI: Newton, Hackshaw, Crognale, Barrett (C), Ayoze, Matern, Gibson, King, Enevoldsen, Kelly, Pasher
- Substitutions: Watson 64' (King); Walker  81' (Pasher); Diakhate 90' (Kelly)
- Unused: Farr, Do-Heon, Osmond, Ouimette
- Goals: Hackshaw 26' (assist Barrett), Kelly 28' (assist Ayoze), Pasher 73' (assist Matern)
- Bookings: None
- Referee: Jon Freemon
- Adage goals: None

After losing the first game of the season to league leaders Saint Louis FC, Indy have found their groove and have won four games in a row, outscoring their opponents 10 to 3 in those games, scored 3 goals in 3 of those games, and had 2 shutouts. The four game win streak sets a club record for consecutive wins. The undefeated streak that the 2016 Spring Championship winning team had to start the year only included a 2-game win streak and had two separate 3-game win streaks. After struggling to win at home in 2014, the Eleven managed a 3-game win streak after the unforgettable win against Minnesota. Both the 2017 and 2018 teams had 3-game win streaks, leaving just the 2015 team without that level of success. However, this season's fast start is the best in club history. It should be noted that three of those four games were against teams that sit 16th, 17th, and 18th in the conference standings, but that's what good teams are supposed to do. Win against the bad teams. This coming week's game against New York Red Bulls II (currently 2nd in the conference) may provide a better understanding of this Indy team.

With Ayoze back on the field taking corner kicks, Indy's height has proven to be a tactical advantage with his pinpoint placement. Indy's first goal in the 26th minute from a corner kick to the far post allowed Crognale's 6'-6" height to be able to head the ball back towards the middle. From there, it was a bit of a pinball machine inside the 18-yard box, but Barrett was also able to put a head on it and then Hackshaw found a boot to it to get it past Coronel. As hot as Kelly has been the past couple of games, the defensive players are getting it done on the offensive side of the ball too. Coming into the season, Indy added some high powered offensive weapons, but I still fully expected Indy to be a defense first team. That has proven to be the case, but all players are finding ways to get in on the scoring action, which has made them a lot more dangerous that I had envisioned.

Just seconds after Indy scored their first goal, Kelly continued to show he is rounding into the goal scorer everyone hoped he would be this season, but getting his third goal of the year in the 28th minute. Ayoze placed the ball perfectly between two defenders, allowing Kelly run onto it and blast it base Coronel before he had time to stop thinking about the first goal.

When a player gets hurt, others have to step up. Teams like to think of it as the "next man up," even while the injured player may be thinking, "I hope they do well, but not too well." Right now, Ilic and Starikov are watching Pasher take their minutes from them while they sit on the sideline and can't go anything about it. Pasher's speed in an Indy jersey has always been evident. His health in Indy has not always been evident. When healthy, he and Kelly make for a backline's worst nightmare as either guy has the pace to get by most defenders. Throw in Ayoze and Barrett's long balls (see Barrett's distribution graphic and his success with the cross-field ball) and defenders have to be ready for Pasher and Kelly to make those runs. Pasher nearly scored in the 36th minute, forced Coronel to make a save in the 69th minute, and and then was finally rewarded with a goal in the 73rd minute by scoring...with his RIGHT foot. If he keeps playing like this, Ilic and Starikov are only going to find minutes coming off the bench or during those periods of multiple games in short timeframes.

After discussing all the offensive weapons in this game, the defense was mostly solid. Still a few decisions that I question, but did you know that Newton isn't one of the league leaders in saves? Not even close. In fact, he doesn't even show up on the list because in 5 games, he's had to make a grand total of 7 official saves. The defense is doing their job before it gets to him even though the team has only held the advantage in possession once during this 4 game win streak (versus winless Hartford).

One last note: This game was part of a doubleheader with MLS's Philadelphia Union, who played at 1:00. The announced attendance for that game was 15,407. The team(s) managed to get just 10% of the fans to stick around for the second game with a sparse 1,537 scattered throughout the stadium.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

I think I'm going to go with Tyler Pasher for this game. He's making the most of his minutes in other player's injuries, forcing Coach Rennie to make some hard decisions once those guys return to full strength.

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